Caregiver Blog: Supporting Families During End-of-Life Care

Article Categories: Caregiver Corner & Caregiver Skills

A caregiver who cares for a dying patient goes above and beyond to ensure that the patient would receive the best quality of care during their remaining days. But illness and impending death affect not only the patient. It distresses the family, too.

The near end-of-life and death of a loved one is a very emotional and struggle-filled period. This is why caregivers embrace the responsibility of caring for the family in this extremely difficult time.

Who is the patient’s family?

The 'family' is a group or an individual that the patient feels most connected to. They are not limited to their spouse, partner, or blood relatives. People who matter most to the patient can be considered family. It is important to acknowledge who the patient considers 'close' so that you can provide support as needed.

The experience of the family

Every family's problem-solving strategies and experiences dealing with a patient's imminent death are unique. All they need is reassurance that their loved one is getting the finest personalized care possible. The family has the patient's best interest at heart, but members may disagree on which end-of-life care measures are appropriate. This situation may bring about conflict.

The family also starts to experience the impending loss and will grieve even while the patient is still alive. They feel a mixture of emotions: sadness, anger, guilt, frustration, and helplessness. Some carry this burden at home and work, and their relationships and performance suffer.

The caregiver’s valuable role

Caregivers like you who stay by the patient all the time can serve as a family's support system as they go through this trying phase. Here's what you can do:

1. Provide care and comfort to the patient.

The family always wants to see that you're doing everything to make their loved one comfortable. At this point, 'comfortable' is what the patient says it is. Ask the patient what will make them feel calmer and at ease.

If they complain of pain, report it to the nurse who can provide more pain medication. Provide soft pillows to support their body in their most relaxed position. Keep the room temperature warm enough for them. Perform skincare and use the gentlest products without harsh ingredients. Play soft music and keep the lights low if that is to the patient's liking. Provide companionship, too.

2. Be kind and sincere.

Many people who lost a loved one come back to thank the caregivers for their sincerity and hard work. It is in these moments that one can truly fulfill the purpose of one's job, and this is to touch lives and make a lasting impact.

To show genuine concern, tune in to the current mood and take extra effort not to intrude in family conversations. Give visitors a private space to gather so they can talk amongst themselves or resolve a conflict. Help them say goodbye. Your compassion during this time can go a long way to help the family.

3. Listen attentively.

Listening is considered compassionate caring by the family because they can express their thoughts and feelings. It helps relieve tension and refocuses the family on what's important. When you give the family your undivided attention, they feel heard and comforted.

4. Show your presence.

Just being there for the family is a great way to show your support. You can't take the pain away, but your presence matters more than it would seem. With you being there, the family knows that they can reach out to you anytime.

5. Be respectful of culture and family dynamics.

Avoid passing judgment. Every family handles stress differently, and you may be surprised to find that many of the on-goings in their lives are far from those you typically know.

For example, a dying patient may consider a close friend their family instead of their blood relatives. Some may hold religious rituals. Help accommodate the patient and family's wishes in such situations.

As a caregiver, it's essential to establish a connection with the family so they can entrust the care of their loved one to you. In a patient’s final moments, you can help the family go through this tough time by comforting them in any way you can.


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